Apprenticeships vs University – The Choice is yours

It’s a Trap! No it’s me Tom. C, back with another blog post.

Now I would start with the usual rambling about my current situation with the courses, projects and random assortments of bad puns but I have been asked to write a post about the University verses Apprenticeships debate. Well Hmph! I was going to retell the story of how I saved the entire project from a pack of angry wolves using nothing but a creme egg and a paper clip, another time I guess.

Well it’s certainty a timely topic, according to a study at ‘Just Googled it INC’ apprenticeships are on the rise with “440,400 apprenticeship starts in 2013/14”  and while “the media” will have you believe that apprenticeships descended from the clouds to bring peace and harmony to the job market, University is still a completely valid decision for further education. IBM is in an interesting position when it comes to this debate because simply in the long run is doesn’t really matter. IBM hires both Apprentices and Graduates and under each scheme you’re given equal opportunities. On both you’ll receive training and more often than not Apprentices and Graduates end up working on the same projects. Whether that be helping a client build their business, developing the next app or recovering a project from a complete system failure after someone dropped a strawberry bonbon into a P-series (that will also have to be for another time).

So to help defuse this debate let’s take the common ground between each offering and compare them factoring in my own personal experience gained from the apprenticeship.

Education

Well first we have education – the tasty jam filling to the Further Education sandwich (should really not write theses so close to dinner).

Education is important there’s no doubt about that. In University you have your syllabus (my teacher always called it a “silly-bus” as it’s a weird ride through life): the best thing about the syllabus is its set, it’s a consistent. You know exactly what you’re going to learn about, if you turn up to a job interview and say “Hi, I’ve got a Masters in Computer Science” everyone will have a good idea about your knowledge set.

In an apprenticeship it’s a much broader playing field. If you take the “Technical Solutions Specialist” apprenticeship IBM offers. You’ve got me working as a Security SME, Infrastructure Architect and a Linux Sys Admin. You also have a good friend of mine Yasmin Stageman (you should totally check out her blog) who works as a Java Programmer and has recently taken up a role a Technical Project Manager. Two completely different job roles under one title. Also in an Apprenticeship the amount you learn and develop is completely on you. You decide what courses you would like to attend and how much you pick up on project.

Finally there’s qualifications. As stated in my previous blog I wanted to gain more certifications and I can happily say I have completed my CompTIA Security+ Exam! (Yay) which is by far one of the best parts of the Apprenticeship. In University you end up with one big qualification: the course you applied for. In an Apprenticeship you can come away with one, or multiple, industry-recognized qualifications.

Work

At the end of the day you still have to work on an Apprenticeship and you still have to go to Lectures at University (though of course the latter does not involve what is traditionally referred to as work). Work is not all that bad: you’re still doing something you love but instead of doing it for yourself you’re doing it for the client.  There isn’t much to say on the topic – if you’re in a role you enjoy then the 9-5 won’t even matter.

 Experience

Another point in the Apprenticeship vs University debate is the fact that you’re constantly learning on an apprenticeship – and I have found this to be very true. At the current moment I have a Senior Architect sitting behind me, our Senior Database Administrator to my left, two AIX/Linux System Admin to my right and a Customer Relationships Manager in front of me. The years of experience on offer is truly amazing and I get to work with these people every day learning from them to help develop my skills and learn from my mistakes. Learning from experience also helps you to diagnose issues very quickly which others may have taken hours to fix. Mainly because the manual will say one thing but in most cases you have to do something else.

Social Life

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to Uni Social life, I can’t talk form personal opinion but all I hear is that it’s the best, it’s amazing and is something that you have to be there to believe. As for the Apprenticeship we still have a great social life. We all get together, go bowling, go-carting and play FootGolf. Not to mention the pub. lots and lots of Pubs! As for IBM itself, there’s internal Hack-a-thons, the Corporate Games (which is like an internal Olympics) which is always a great hit. Projects (like the one I’m on) also celebrate Christmas and Project Releases which is always great fun.

Money

I’m sure I don’t have to go on about the “£50,000” worth of debt everyone keeps talking about but it’s not really ‘debt’ – you are investing in an education for later life and in my mind if you want to go for it, GO FOR IT. On the apprentice side, you get paid X amount of money alongside that you get IBM discounts/cash back on various products, private health care and bonus depending on your “PBC” Rating. There is also “TAP” which, if you are entitled to, is an allowance for accommodation or travel money to allow you to work way from home which is great.

Well there you have it: my 5 points on the Uni vs Apprenticeships argument. In my opinion they’re are both perfectly good opportunities. I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my Apprenticeship experience so far and would completely recommend it to anyone. I’ve learnt a ton, met some amazing people and have had a great kick start to me career. As for Uni it’s up to you. It’s your decision and I hope which ever one you make you are happy with the choice.

That was me Tom. C See you next time!

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